Wal-Mart Stores Inc v. Dukes

While the U.S. Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals have in recent years demanded rigorous scrutiny before authorizing certification of class actions, the Supreme Court of Canada has charted a different course. In a trio of recent decisions in antitrust class actions, Canada’s high court rejected key U.S. precedents on the scope and nature of class actions, forcing companies to defend against the same types of allegations under distinctly different legal regimes on each side of the border.

The three cases decided by the Canadian court, which all involved allegations of price-fixing, are:


Continue Reading O Canada: New Ground Rules For Class Certification in Antitrust Cases North Of The Border

Today, Mayer Brown filed a pair of certiorari petitions that challenge efforts by two federal appellate courts to narrow the Supreme Court’s recent class-action decisions in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes to tickets good for a single ride only. The Supreme Court previously remanded both cases for reconsideration after Comcast, but both courts of appeals reinstated their decisions. The certiorari petitions explain why those decisions are wrong: both putative class actions are beset by individual liability and damages questions and are filled with uninjured class members.

In one case, Sears, Roebuck and Co. v.
Continue Reading Mayer Brown Files Cert Petitions In Front-Loading Washer Cases

In state courts, sometimes you lose even when you win. In a recent false-advertising class action, a California Superior Court entered an order concluding that the testimony of the plaintiffs’ expert—who was the linchpin of the case for class certification and on the merits—was inadmissible, which meant that the defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Wallace v. Monier, LLC (pdf)No. S-CV-0016410 (Cal. Super. Ct. Placer Cty. Jan. 28, 2013).

Sounds great, right—so what’s the problem? The judge waited to decide these issues until after a jury trial on the class claims in which
Continue Reading California Trial Court Rejects “Trial by Formula” Approach to False-Advertising Class Action and Sets Aside Verdict

The California Supreme Court held in Arias v. Superior Court that a plaintiff may bring a representative action on behalf of himself and other employees to recover civil penalties under California’s Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”) without meeting California’s class-certification requirements. The court reasoned that, unlike a class action, where the plaintiff is suing on behalf of individual employees, a PAGA plaintiff steps into the shoes of state labor-law enforcement agencies. While that holding governs California state courts, the federal district courts have been split as to whether plaintiffs bringing PAGA claims in federal court must seek class certification under
Continue Reading Federal District Court Says That Plaintiffs Bringing Representative Claims Under California’s Private Attorney General Act Don’t Have To Seek Class Certification

Some academics and commentators have been reading the tea leaves in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes (pdf) and AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion (pdf) as spelling doom for consumer and employment class actions. That’s overwrought; Dukes rejected an extremely adventuresome application of the class action rules by the Ninth Circuit, and Concepcion merely reminded courts that they can’t get around the Federal Arbitration Act by insisting that arbitration agreements permit expensive aspects of judicial litigation that are completely alien to arbitration in its traditional form. The continuing flood of class action filings is proof that the spigot hasn’t been shut off. But companies should pay attention to where the plaintiffs’ bar thinks they should move next if filing class actions stops being a viable business model.

In a recent article—After Class: Aggregate Litigation in the Wake of AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion (pdf), 79 U. Chi. L. Rev. 623 (2012)—law professor Myriam Gilles and plaintiffs’ lawyer Gary Friedman shine the spotlight on state attorneys general:

In our view, the “private attorney general” role assumed by class action lawyers over the past several decades should give way to a world in which state attorneys general make broad use of their parens patriae authority—far greater use than they have in the past—to represent the interests of their citizens in the very consumer, antitrust, wage-and-hour, and other cases that have long provided the staple of class action practice.

And to tackle complex cases, we would hope to see underfunded AG offices making use of the lawyers who have acquired expertise in originating, investigating, and prosecuting class actions, as well as financing them.

The linchpin of this strategy is, of course, the money. If a state AG can’t give the deputized class action lawyers a big chunk of the money recovered for citizens, the model falls apart. Of course, money was one of the main problems with the biggest experiment with deputizing private lawyers as state AGs—the states’ lawsuits against the tobacco industry. Then-Texas AG Dan Morales was sentenced to four years in prison for attempting to steer millions of dollars from the proceeds of the tobacco settlement to a Houston lawyer.

So what should businesses do if they face one of these parens patriae lawsuits from a faux “acting AG”? Here are a few thoughts:
Continue Reading What’s Next for the Class Action Plaintiffs’ Bar? Getting Deputized by State Attorneys General

A recent federal court decision has addressed the knotty issue of a defendant’s right to discovery in an FLSA collective action from the individuals who opt into the class after it is conditionally certified but before the court decides whether to grant final certification.

The case, Scott v. Bimbo Bakeries, USA, Inc. (pdf), No. 10-3154 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 11, 2012), featured a claim that the defendant’s delivery drivers—who were independent contractors—were de facto “employees” and thus entitled to various remedies under the FLSA. After the court conditionally certified the collective action, roughly 650 individuals opted into the class. To prepare
Continue Reading How Much Discovery From Opt-Ins in FLSA Collective Actions Should Businesses Seek?

Although the class action bar in general is eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court argument in Comcast Corp. v. Behrend (No. 11-864)—which will be argued November 5th—antitrust practitioners in particular have a keen interest in the case. The issue presented is whether a district court may certify a class action without first resolving whether an expert witness’s testimony that the case can be tried on a class-wide basis passes muster under Daubert, the standard for admissibility at trial.
Continue Reading Comcast Corp. v. Behrend: Upcoming Supreme Court Case Is Critical to Antitrust Class Actions

The Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in a TCPA case—Meyer v. Portfolio Recovery Associates (pdf)—involves several interesting issues for class-action practitioners even outside the TCPA setting.

First, a bit of background. In Meyer, the plaintiff sued a debt collector under the TCPA, alleging that it used an autodialer to call his cell phone number impermissibly. The plaintiff sought statutory damages and injunctive relief on behalf of a putative class of all California residents whom the defendant had called at cell phone numbers that had not been provided as part of the transaction giving rise to the debt in question. The district court certified the class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) for the limited purpose of entering a preliminary injunction against the challenged conduct. The Ninth Circuit affirmed.

Setting aside the TCPA issues—which will be addressed in a subsequent post—the Ninth Circuit’s decision contains several holdings that should be of interest (and concern) to class-action defendants more broadly:

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Upholds “Provisional” Class Certification for Entry of a Preliminary Injunction in TCPA Class Action

The Wall Street Journal recently published an editorial urging the Supreme Court to grant the petition for certiorari (pdf) in Whirlpool Corp. v. Glazer—a petition filed by my colleagues Stephen Shapiro, Jeffrey Sarles, and Tim Bishop. The petition seeks review of a decision by the Sixth Circuit (pdf), which affirmed the certification of a class of Ohio purchasers of front-loading Whirlpool washing machines that allegedly are defective because a small fraction may emit moldy odors due to laundry residue. (The action is a bellwether case; many identical class actions have been filed across the country against
Continue Reading Wall Street Journal Editorial Calls for Supreme Court Review in Whirlpool Corp. v. Glazer

The Second Circuit’s recent decision in Hecht v. United Collection Bureau, Inc., No. 11-1327 (2d Cir. Aug. 17, 2012), should sound alarm bells for any business that attempts to settle a class action.  The takeaway from the decision is to make sure that  notice of the settlement to absent class members is adequate. Under some circumstances, a single notice in the USA Today won’t cut it. And if it doesn’t, the release in the settlement won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on, and other plaintiffs will be free to bring the exact same class action against you.
Continue Reading Second Circuit: Insufficient Notice of Class Action Settlement Means That Class Members Can Bring Copycat Class Actions